The Housing Ombudsman (HO) has today published its spotlight report on noise complaints.
In addition to reviewing the cases determined between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, the HO conducted a call for evidence asking for assistance from residents, landlords and sector professionals. 374 responses were received. The report has now been produced and can be found here. It sets out 32 recommendations. 10 key themes from the report are provided below.
- Noise transference is identified as the key issue. By addressing this, landlords could stop escalating complaints into ASB and focus more on prevention.
- The void standard could be updated to ensure that carpets are not routinely removed, but hard flooring is, when there have been reports of noise, as well as fitting anti-vibration mats under white goods. Such measures could prevent complaints.
- Insulation is important. Given the age and type of some social housing, the implication of insulation is significant.
- ASB policies should be strengthened. Landlords should review complaints, maintain good relationships and promote mediation which is considered but often discarded. They should triage more effectively, look at the distinction between council landlords and housing associations and consider how many parties respond to each complaint (in some cases, the landlord will not be the only organisation involved in responding e.g. agencies, police, environmental health etc).
- Staff presence can provide early intervention where noise is reported. The HO found that although 90% of landlords reported they had estate presence, less than half of residents who responded said they had witnessed it.
- Resident engagement is key in developing a good neighbourhood management strategy. Landlords should engage residents, including those who have raised a formal complaint with the landlord. A proactive neighbourhood management policy, distinct to an ASB policy, should be adopted.
- Allocations is another key area. The HO’s view is that applications for housing should be assessed for the impact on the existing community and not just those considered to be sensitive. When considering housing applications from households of multiple occupants, where possible, consideration should be given to previous complaints about noise.
- Respect of residents’ complaints is a central concern. Bias is key here too. Landlords should be sensitive to the tone of communications and ensure that policies are being followed.
- Maladministration is commonly the result of not producing action plans, undertaking risk assessments or fully investigating. There have been instances where noise report handlers have not listened to noise recordings submitted by residents. Communication and record keeping must be improved.
- The Decent Homes standard is at the apex of the report. The HO welcomes the government’s review and in light of the report, encourages it to reflect on the factors relating to noise more comprehensively.